An optometrist saved my life

“A football sized dark area in vision two months later led me to suspect a more serious problem”

Optometrist at Edgbaston Eye Clinic, Don Williams, and his patient, Julian Richards, discuss a referral for a retinal detachment

Don Williams

Why did you go for a sight test? 

Julian Richards (JR): I had symptoms of sudden flashes in peripheral vision. Although concerning, this was very infrequent. An internet search led me to believe that this can be caused by floaters and was benign. A football sized dark area in vision two months later led me to suspect a more serious problem that needed an urgent visit to my optometrist.

What did the optometrist find?

JR: He found a detached retina, which would need urgent attention, and a taxi was booked to take me to the eye hospital straightaway.

How did you feel during the referral and did you have to undergo any further treatment?

JR: I felt quite calm during the referral. I felt reassured by the optometrist’s expertise and had a clear idea of the condition and likely prognosis. I had to have an urgent vitrectomy to re-attach the retina.

Have your views on the importance of sight tests and eye care changed as a result of this experience?

JR: Yes, I will not ignore any sight anomalies, even if they are relatively temporary, from now on. I will also have regular appointments to monitor my eye health.

I am much more aware, mindful and appreciative of my eye health

Julian Richards

How has the experience changed your life?

JR: I am much more aware, mindful and appreciative of my eye health. The experience has not had a major effect on my day to day life as my resulting vision is on a par with that previous to the detachment. 

What did you identify during the sight test?

Don Williams (DW): The patient presented with an increase in floaters and flashes. It was a retinal detachment.

How do you approach explaining what you had suspected?

DW: My practice is equipped with various imaging devices and having these devices makes it very easy to show to patients what the issue is. It was no different in this case. The patient was referred to the hospital eye service straightaway.

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When did you hear about the results of your referral and how have you been involved since?

DW: I called the patient later the same day and he mentioned that he was booked in the next day for retinal surgery. I also work at that same hospital on a sessional basis, so it was easy to follow the patient’s progress; with his consent, of course.

What would be your three top tips to other practitioners when making a referral?

DW: 1.Listen to the patient’s symptoms

2. If it is a sight or life-threatening condition, act swiftly and also keep calm. The last thing any practitioners want to happen is to add to the anxiety. The more cases a practitioner is exposed to, the easier the management

3. Try and follow the patient’s progress. Show empathy and interest in their care. A follow up phone call is a good idea.